Saturday, November 20, 2004

more on talking..

... Rhea and Deirdre have made some excellent comments on my post on language - thanks guys - and I felt I really wanted to talk more about some of these issues a bit more. So please humour me.

Rhea was saying " Mostly, if you use common sense and courtesy you will surely avoid offending people. In fact, I would be as bold as to say (correct me if I'm wrong) if I happened to refer to you as "disabled" as opposed to "a wheelchair user" but I otherwise treated you with courtesy and respect, you wouldn't be too offended? :o) (or shall I duck now?)"

Now Rhea is a friend from pre blogging days - and as such she'd have to try quite hard to offend me. I think that the issue really is in not thinking about it at all and not making any effort to be kind/thoughtful in the choice of language. I guess its all about context - if she was saying to Mr Rhea about meeting up with us something like 'Oh we can't meet there as Birdy is disabled' - no offence at all. 'Wheelchair user' is likely to make more sense if the issue is of access. If she was writing something for work - she'd ask me about the wording I'd imagine.

Deirdre made several other points - "If every one of us were constantly labelled with our disabilities for even one whole day, maybe the use of such terms would quickly fall out of favour" and "Or have I misread this whole thing? Does it help to have a disability described (& thus perhaps better understood) by others?"

I think she's right about both, actually. I use a big funky electric wheelchair all the time, and so there's no way of avoiding looking like a disabled person. You don't have to worry about telling anyone, as if they are uncomfortable you know straight away. I have mixed views, depending on the context about trying to make someone who seems uncomfortable comfortable with the situation. I think to being different if you have an excuse - i.e. if you are a disabled person is more acceptable than simply being different.
When I talk about disabled people I mean people who experience discrimination due to a perceived impairment - like Deirdre says, many of us have difficulties in one area or another - and if we were all referred to principally by our difficulties - whether with shyness, anxiety or something obvious like me it might well fall out of favour. We seem to be determined to define others by our differences rather than our commonality. I think this could explain a lot.
Deirdre also says - " Also, did you realise you don't have a disability in the blog world? As long as you can write & read, everyone's on an even footing out here in the ether... or whatever this stuff is... " which hadn't occurred to me - I love it when you guys make me think! That must be why I find the internet so liberating. Of course, frustratingly the internet is mostly not accessible to visually impaired people....
Thanks guys - I really appreciate you challenging me like this!

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